By Anthony Mitchell
For The Daily Item
With the conference season winding down, Susquehanna came into play teetering on the ledge of the postseason.
Goucher gave the Crusaders a fight deep into the second half, but the Crusaders finally pulled away with the help of four starters in double figures.
Led in scoring by Jonaida Williams with 19 points, the Crusaders put away a pesky Goucher squad, 69-52, in a late-season Landmark Conference tilt.
“We just came out with the mindset to keep pushing the ball and try to stop (Goucher) as much as we could,” Nikki Komara said. “We knew that (Goucher) could run. They’re a very athletic team.”
While Williams led the Crusaders (11-8, 5-4 LC) in points, she was not the only Susquehanna starter to make their presence felt in one or more facets of the game.
Nicole Gault, Mariah Monahan and Komara, a Lourdes graduate, also scored in double-digits with Monahan dishing a school-record 14 assists for a double-double and Komara cleaning the glass for her double-double with 13 rebounds while also dishing out seven assists.
“(Komara’s) been doing that all season,” Reed said of Komara’s rebounding.
It’s the sixth double-double for Komara this year.
Reed credited the play of his post players around the glass, clearing Goucher (5-14, 1-8) out of the lane, allowing Komara to pull down rebounds.
Williams came out of the gates hot, knocking down shots regardless of the range, scoring nine of the Crusaders’ first 16 points and pouring in 13 of her 19 points in the first half.
Behind Williams’ hot shooting early, the Crusaders stayed in front of a Goucher squad living in the low post on offense.
Williams knocked down a corner 3-pointer off of a laser-precision pass from Monahan and contributed at both ends one minute later with a block at the defensive end and receiving a pass from Komara for a layup to put the Crusaders ahead, 16-13 with 12:43 left in the first.
“Jonaida, the past two weeks has been playing great,” Reed said.
“I think any time one of us is shooting well, that gets us going,” Williams added. “We know our roles. We play into them (and) that’s when we do our best.”
Assisting on four of five Crusaders’ buckets during a 3-minute stretch midway through the first half, Monahan set a tone for the rest of the game, delivering crisp passes to her teammates for quick shots.
“As long as we’re pushing in transition, that’s the game I like to play,” Monahan said. “I’d rather hit (my teammates with the ball) than take it all the way.”
Taking advantage of their speed in transition and rebounds at both ends, the Crusaders opened a 27-17 lead on the strength of an 8-0 run, with an assist on every basket during the run. The Gophers closed the deficit to four, 33-29 before Komara spotted Gault near the hoop with the seconds winding down and Gault finished to put the Crusaders ahead, 35-29, at the half.
Gault and Komara scored early in the second half to keep the Crusaders in front despite Goucher finding its stroke from the perimeter with the Gophers cutting the Susquehanna lead to 42-38 with 15:16 left.
However, with Goucher threatening to pull in front, the Crusaders responded with six straight points, using their guards to attack the rim and create shots.
For much of the second half, the Crusaders worked the ball inside either in transition or out of a set offense, leading to close looks at the basket.
The Gophers kept their deficit hovering around 10 points before the Crusaders used a 10-2 run to help seal the victory.
The Crusaders kept the ball moving on offense, forcing the Gophers defense to continue to rotate to keep up with the Crusaders’ pace, leading to clean shots and many of the Crusaders’ 27 assists as a team.